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  • Return to Posts

    Rescuing Leftovers

    Posted on 07/03/08
    Veganomics Lesson Nine: Stop food waste by utilizing leftovers.


    Above: Leftover Zucchini Chowder gets new life by adding pasta.

    What are leftovers? Leftovers fall into two categories:

    (1) when you prepare a meal and there is still food left
    (2) when you buy a certain item for a recipe but do not use it all (a can of tomato paste is a good example)

    There are several strategies for putting leftovers to good use, the first being prevention (or portion control). Prevent leftovers by making only the amount of food that will be immediately consumed. This is especially effective with side dishes such as rice or noodles, where it is relatively easy to measure and prepare proper potion sizes.

    Another strategies is to look for "cook once eat twice" recipes that are designed to create leftovers, then give you a second recipe in which to use those leftovers. This method also saves energy because the second recipe rarely calls for additional heating. Check out Love Food Hate Waste for "cook once eat twice" recipes.

    Substitutions are another way to prevent leftovers by avoiding extra food purchases. Rather than purchase a vegetable or spice that you rarely cook with, find a suitable replacement from your own kitchen. Many cookbooks will list common substitutions or use an online substitution guide, such as this Common Substitutions Chart from

    Over the course of the Veganomics project, I have discovered most of my food waste is in the form of leftovers. Part of it is cooking recipes meant for 4-6 people when there are only two of us, but I am just as bad with restaurant or take-out leftovers. To help combat food waste, I have developed my own method for rescuing leftovers from the trash bin: salads, sandwiches, soups, and side dishes.

    quinoa-salad.jpgSalads: Leftover fruit, vegetables, and meat are great for tossing in salads. This was the inspiration behind Spinach & Quinoa Salad.

    Sandwiches: Leftover meat, especially poultry, is great for making sandwiches (think Thanksgiving leftovers: see my post on Turkey all the time! ). Get creative and create "hot" sandwiches with warmed up vegetables and potatoes.


    Soups: Turning sauteed vegetables and/or pasta dishes into soup is a great way to use leftovers. A dish like Stoplight Pasta is easily made into soup by adding chicken or vegetable stock. 

    Side dishes: Create a side dish by adding pasta to creamy soups such as Broccoli Cheese or Zucchini Garden Chowder (made with cheese). Prepare 2-3 cups of pasta or rice, then add leftover soup and reheat. Add torn basil and fresh ground black pepper to enhance the flavors. Another option: strain out some of the liquid of a broth-based soup and add sauteed vegetables.

    Homework: Get creative and turn leftovers into new dishes!